It's an Industry!
Part 1

Part 2: A conversation with Brian Behlendorf of sourceXchange and Wayne Caccomo of Hewlett-Packard

Part 3: A conversation with Bernie Thompson of CoSource

By Doc Searls
21 May 1999

There's a new incentive for writing that open source device driver. Money.

We all work for reasons. Hackers, Eric S. Raymond tells us, work for the esteem of their peers, for the thrill of solving problems, and for grokking sci-fi that's opaque to other Earthlings, among many other things. But for money? Well, it's not exactly the top proirity.

In Homesteading the Noosphere, ESR isolates nine attitudinal varieties in hacker ideology, derived from various mixes of 1) "degree of zealotry" and 2) "hostility to commercial software and/or the companies perceived to dominate the commercial software market." Among those nine is the pragmatist:

The typical pragmatist attitude is only moderately anticommercial, and its major grievance against the corporate world is not `hoarding' per se. Rather it is that world's perverse refusal to adopt superior approaches incorporating Unix and open standards and open-source software. If the pragmatist hates anything, it is less likely to be `hoarders' in general than the current King Log of the software establishment; formerly IBM, now Microsoft.

Well, that world just changed.

"I love it. One company is just a bunch of crazy guys. But two companies is an industry." — Eric S. Raymond.
For this we can thank Hewlett-Packard, which discovered a way to help its own pragmatist agenda overcome corporate fear of the zealotry that has animated the hacker culture for two decades or more. H-P wanted some of that superior approach stuff, and not to hoard it, either. They also thought, reasonably, that there ought to be some kind of market mechanism that would get it for them. So they approached O'Reilly Associates with some ideas. The end result is sourceXchange, a new online marketplace for open source development , hosted by O'Reilly and headed by Brian Behlendorf, whose own creds as a hacker have few equals (code he wrote for Apache is serving up the pages you're reading right now).

Coincidentally, a similar effort is taking shape in Seattle, where is growing from the fertile mind of Bernie Thompson and his own crew. The two efforts have identical agendas: creating a real marketplace for open source development — one that allows real market conversations between supply and demand, where customers get added values and suppliers get added dollars.

And what does Eric Raymond think of it? "I love it!" he says. "One company is just a bunch of crazy guys. But two companies is an industry."

Both marketplaces are in the late planning stages and are expected to ramp up through the summer. Meanwhile, it should be interesting to see how the news is absorbed by both the corporate and hacker cultures, which are not accustomed to seeing each other in conventional supply & demand roles.

It will be especially interesting to see how all this goes down with Richard Stallman and the Free Software stalwarts.

Let freedom ring. Cash registers.

If the open source movement has had a problem since it began, we can isolate it to one word: free.

As Richard Stallman will hasten to tell you, "open source" is a new label for an old idea: free software. In Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (O'Reilly, 1999), Stallman writes,

Whatever disagreements may persist between RMS and others in the often fractious movement he started, the difference between Free and Open is now clear. The two can no longer be mistaken for synonymous, and companies looking for open source development don't need to stumble over the F word. They can post their RFP at sourceXchange or pool resources with other customers at, then hire open source developers to do the work.

These new marketplaces (which are still both in development) make it clear that "open" and "free" are separate concerns. In fact they suggest, as Craig Burton has often pointed out, that they are orthogonal, as the graphic to the left (supplied by Craig) shows.

CoSource and sourceXchange are real marketplaces, in the original meaning of that word: places where supply and demand can meet and do business.

So finally there are places where companies that simply need good software can go and hire the talent to create it. This is a huge breakthrough, especially coming on the heels of Kleiner Perkins' announced investment in Linuxcare. We now see at least two clear open source business models, in addition to the established ones for OS and hardware sales. Others will surely follow.

Just before O'Reilly announced sourceXchange at Linux Expo, I talked with Brian Behlendorf of O'Reilly (Brian is best known as the main progenitor of Apache) and Wayne Caccamo of Hewlett-Packard. After that I spoke with Bernie Thompson of CoSource. Here are twose two conversations —